Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure Paperback – Apr 13 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Australian radio correspondent Macdonald's rollicking memoir recounts the two years she spent in India when her boyfriend, Jonathan, a TV news correspondent, was assigned to New Delhi. Leaving behind her own budding career, she spends her sabbatical traveling around the country, sampling India's "spiritual smorgasbord": attending a silent retreat for Vipassana meditation, seeking out a Sikh Ayurvedic "miracle healer," bathing in the Ganges with Hindus, studying Buddhism in Dharamsala, dabbling in Judaism with Israeli tourists, dipping into Parsi practices in Mumbai, visiting an ashram in Kerala, attending a Christian festival in Velangani and singing with Sufis. Paralleling Macdonald's spiritual journey is her evolution as a writer; she trades her sometimes glib remarks ("I've always thought it hilarious that Indian people chose the most boring, domesticated, compliant and stupidest animal on earth to adore") and 1980s song title references (e.g., "Karma Chameleon") for a more sensitive tone and a sober understanding that neither mocks nor romanticizes Indian culture and the Western visitors who embrace it. The book ends on a serious note, when September 11 shakes Macdonald's faith and Jonathan, now her husband, is sent to cover the war in Afghanistan. Macdonald is less compelling when writing about herself, her career and her relationship than when she is describing spiritual centers, New Delhi nightclubs and Bollywood cinema. Still, she brings a reporter's curiosity, interviewing skills and eye for detail to everything she encounters, and winningly captures "[t]he drama, the dharma, the innocent exuberance of the festivals, the intensity of the living, the piety in playfulness and the embrace of living day by day..--he drama, the dharma, the innocent exuberance of the festivals, the intensity of the living, the piety in playfulness and the embrace of living day by day."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Australian MacDonald didn't fall in love with India her first time there, at age 21. So when her boyfriend, Jonathan, a reporter for ABC, is sent there for work, she reluctantly follows after a year of separation. At first, life in India is as bad as she remembered it--overcrowded, smoggy, disturbing. A serious bout of pneumonia puts her in an Indian hospital, but as she recovers, she begins to make friends in India and to understand the culture. She finds herself attending lavish Indian weddings and trying to comfort her friend Padma, whose mother commits suicide after Padma marries without her permission. MacDonald makes an effort to understand the many diverse religions of the area, including taking a 10-day sojourn in a Buddhist temple and discussing religion with Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, and even a group of visiting Israelis. With Jonathan, she takes a trip to war-torn Kashmir, an area that is at once achingly beautiful and devastatingly dangerous. A lively, snappy travelogue. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
You will likely learn a thing or two about India, but really I don't think that this is what the book is truly for. I see that there are those who are offended by her generalizations and the fact that the book really only scrapes the surface of India - culture and religion. This book is not a learning tool. It is however, nothing to be offended by.
For a foreigner living in India (different than traveling), it is an amazing and intense experience. India is so different than what we know that you often need to come at it with a great sense of humor. This is what Sarah McDonald does. The craziest, strangest experiences you never thought you would be having happen to you in India. For me this book was a reflection of that. When I miss India, I read this book.
I generally hate reading other people's travel writing. It just makes me jealous. And really one person's experience is that - just one persons experience. But I love this one. If you would like a lighthearted read by a humorous woman who came to love India through daily living experience and laughter this is the one.
I just finished reading "Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure," a memoir by Sarah Macdonald. I have to say I wholeheartedly recommend the book to Indiophiles everywhere. I suspect that we all could write our own book on what this amazing country and its plethora of religions has taught us. (In fact, most of us will have learned these lessons, just from reading, before we ever set foot on the subcontinent.) It's very light reading-- you'll get hooked and finish it in a week-- not like a heavy philosophical text, not even an "Autobiography of a Yogi.Read more ›
After reading the first couple chapters I expected HOLY COW to be filled with constant whining of India's derelict living conditions and complaints based on a Westernized perspective resulting in a mediocre travel narrative. But low and behold, I was soon pleasantly surprised how Sarah slowly evolved and reevaluated the country that she has scorned for so many years. After she started becoming reacquainted in her new home she started looking beyond the mayhem and dirt and began to see the beauty of India. Being a devout atheist when she first moved to New Delhi she slowly awoke and embraced the dynamic religions of Hinduism and Buddhism; she began to appreciate the sounds and surroundings of her new home.
While her husband is busy working Sarah was able to travel throughout India with her new perspectives and begins to enjoy the dichotomies that India offers. My favorite side trip was the Buddhist retreat in the Himalayan footsteps that taught her to meditate by concentrating on her breathing. I cannot imagine undergoing anything close to that endeavor.Read more ›
Skipping past the issue of the cover, what of the content? Well, I thought that there was little in the book which taught me anything more about India than I'd read elsewhere (for example by Mark Tully and William Dalrymple). Thus once again you get a description of the Kumbh Mela, a trip to Kashmir, visits to ashrams - pretty much the usual stuff. The difference is that those other writers did it better, with deeper insight, greater balance and more respect for their subject.
Much of the writing and observations in this book are distinctly shallow - the trip to Mumbai to learn about the Parsis, and the ravings about Sikhs made my toes curl. In different ways, the author did a disservice to both. Apparently India is a "land of contrasts" - a stunning insight. Whether or not her descriptions of the attitudes exhibited to her by Indian men are true, I don't know. Neither do I know whether she is stunningly attractive, or whether the appearance of any white woman in India is enough to send Mr Average Indian into a sexual frenzy, but it did seem a bit far-fetched to depict every Indian as a lecher. Oh, and apparently it's OK to ogle Ms MacDonald so long as you do it in Sydney!
The author goes to various ashrams and religious establishments, arrives sceptically, is moved by the experience, then shakes it all off. Or not - she blames a sadhu for her pneumonia and a Hindu saint for her expanding boobs. Large sections of the book are devoted to how she looks, how her friends look, and recounting screechy conversations between the girls. All very irritating, shallow and vain.
Most recent customer reviews
I was hopeful at the beginning that this book would give some humourous insights to the vast and wonderous land that is India. But it was not to be. Read morePublished on March 11 2012 by Jan
I happened upon this book one day in a Chapters bookstore, attracted by the title and the cover. I have a place in my heart for India and it's people, though I have never been... Read morePublished on April 23 2011 by Ian Murray
Amazing book i picked it up on Amsterdam airport could not put it down till i finished it. Must read for someone planning to visit India.Published on Feb. 15 2006 by Samir Panday
Are you happiest when you have a backpack strapped to your back with a sense of adventure in your heart? Then this book is for you.
Especially if... Read more
The people that rate this book (and tell Sarah to go to hell) seem to be taking someone else's experiences rather personally. Read morePublished on July 16 2004
Sarah obviously sees the world through the Western norms and thus cannot understand what makes India or for that matter other multi-cultures tick. Read morePublished on July 15 2004
Having lived in India for years I approached the book with hightened expectations that I never found. I have yet to find a book that captures the feel of India in words. Read morePublished on July 4 2004 by G. Goodwood
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